Call for Papers – Workshop on “Cognition in Groups”, May 31 2017 in Milan

Center for the Study of Social Action, University of Milan, Via Festa del Perdono, 7, 20122 Milano, Italy.

Deadline for submissions: March 15, 2017

Confirmed speakers: Giulia Piredda (Pavia), Kourken Michaelian (Dunedin), Giuliano Torrengo (Milan)

The scientific debate of individual cognition and its relation to (mental) action and society has a long tradition. More recently, philosophers and cognitive scientists have approached the peculiarities of cognition in groups from various angles, addressing questions like: What is ‘cognition in groups’? Is there something like a ‘group mind’ or ‘socially extended mind’? What is special about being engaged in mental actions in a group to together with other agents opposed to being engaged in the same kinds of action individually? What does mental action and mental agency come to in groups? What is the interrelation between group cognition and social ontology? To which extent does the existence of institutions and social facts depend on cognition in groups?

This workshop aims at continuing the debate by addressing questions like these and shedding new light on ‘cognition in groups’ from various angels. If you would like to attend the conference actively with giving a talk, please prepare a 200-word abstract plus title suitable for blind-review and send it by March 15 2017 with the subject line “Submission: Cognition in Groups” to . The abstracts will be reviewed by April 1 2017.

Giulia Piredda (IUSS Center for Neurocognition, Epistemology and Theoretical Syntax in Pavia): Socially extended mind and personal identity

Gallagher (2013) has proposed the idea that we have socially extended minds. These are minds not only “constituted in social interactions with others, but also in ways that involve institutional structures, norms and practices”. However, in what can be considered the “extended mind manifesto”, the concept of a socially extended mind, as well as that of extended self, had already been introduced, in different terms, by Clark and Chalmers (1998). So, there are at least two ways of interpreting the notion of socially extended mind, in line with the two strands of the extended mind debate (Menary 2010): the functionalist and the enactivist one. Given the presence of these different versions, the first part of the talk will be devoted to a theoretical clarification of these ways – and their consequences – of intending the meaning of a socially extended mind. The second part of the talk will focus on the intersections between the socially extended mind and some issues of the personal identity debate that concerns the way in which the social environment enters the construction of our selves (e.g. autobiographical memory, technologies of the self: cfr. Heersmink 2016, Wilson & Lenart 2015).

Kourken Michaelian (University of Dunedin): Collective memory: Metaphor or reality?

The concept of collective memory has currency both in the social sciences, in research focusing on how societies and other large-scale groups remember their pasts, and in psychology, in research on how married couples, parent-child dyads, and other small-scale groups remember events together. But how seriously should we take the concept? Is collective memory a mere metaphor? Or are (some) groups (sometimes) literally capable of remembering? The first part of this talk develops a critical perspective on large-scale collective memory, looking at three case studies: Anastasio et al.'s (2012) treatment of collective consolidation, Szpunar and Szpunar's (2015) treatment of collective future thought, and Tanesini's (forthcoming) treatment of collective amnesia, arguing that, in each case, the collective phenomenon in question is in fundamental respects disanalogous to the individual phenomenon to which it is compared. The second part of the talk develops a more optimistic perspective on small-scale collective memory, arguing that it is more plausible that transactive memory systems (e.g., Harris et al. 2017) are literally capable of remembering.

Giuliano Torrengo (University of Milan): Institutions and distributed cognition

Many views in social ontology share an “Assumption of Continuity” according to which society is composed basically of collective intentions and cooperative behaviours, and this is so both for informal contexts involving small groups and for complex institutional structures. I have recently argued against such an assumption and in favour of a view — Institutional Externalism — according to which at the heart of institutional reality there is the fact that elements such as laws, contracts, and the like (what I will call “enactments”) are regarded as valid and binding not in virtue of their content but because they are produced according to an established procedure. I have labeled this view “institutional externalism”. In this paper, I elaborate further Institutional Externalism in opposition to more popular views based on the Assumption of Continuity.